Death penalty semantics
Readers of Viewpoints should carefully pay attention to the words used by submitters. Very often, people will use words outside of their established meanings in order to evoke an emotional response instead of reasoned understanding. For example, a recent letter against capital punishment stated that “murdering another will not bring their loved one back.” The definition of the word “murder” in Webster’s: 1. The unlawful killing of one human being by another.
A legal execution, carried out in accordance with existing law by the government, does not meet this definition and therefore an argument using this word is patently false. Besides that, the writer apparently assumed the reason behind the victim’s family agreeing to drop the death penalty was, like his, an aversion to it. However, it is just as likely that they felt there might be a quicker resolution to the case, which actually happened. In all the previous news reports of this case, I do not recall any mention of aversion to the death penalty, per se, by the victim’s family, but I admit I did not read all of the extensive news coverage.
Finally, the writer used the words “barbaric punishment” on our fellow man, but wound up his argument by his desire to have convicted murderers put into an 8-by-10 cell with the door welded shut. It could be argued that this punishment would be infinitely more “barbaric” than a legal execution (look up barbaric in your dictionary). Also, the most accurate translation of the sixth commandment from the original Hebrew, is “Thou shalt not murder,” (not “kill”). The Hebrews had standing armies and legal capital punishment, so some Bible translations are inaccurate by using the word “kill.”
-- Richard Jones
Freedom of expression
I disagree with Cal Thomas’ column of Feb. 25. When Thomas Jefferson declared in the Declaration of Independence, “our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are endowed by our creator,” he was substituting the doctrine of the “Divine Right of Kings.” That is, a monarch is not subject to any earthly authority, and he has a divine right to rule directly from the will of God. This is a political and religious doctrine that was used by monarchs to impose their will on their subjects. Jefferson also stated “that the purpose of government is to secure these rights.” When the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were both adopted, more than half of the population -- women and people of color -- were excluded from “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The Constitution and the Bill of Rights were amended later to ensure that all of the people would be treated equally.
I am a devout believer in the teachings of Jesus. Therefore, I am concerned when individuals claim their beliefs are derived from a higher law and that we must believe as they do. We are now threatened by an extreme group that believes it has a divine right to murder and enslave those who do not believe as they do, including fellow Muslims. This is its interpretation of endowed rights.
We live in a multi-religious society. Therefore, our laws must ensure that all individuals have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as long as they do not try to impose their beliefs on others or try to prevent others from following their beliefs. Our laws are the same for everyone at all times and in all places.
I believe Cal Thomas and Justice Roy Moore have a right to their religious beliefs, and they are free to express their beliefs any time they want. But they must understand that others may have different beliefs or that some may have a different interpretation within in a specific creed. And these individuals are also free to express their beliefs.
-- Jim Costello
Learn from history
I read President Obama’s recent Prayer Breakfast address. Despite the expected criticism from the religious/political right, I like what he said. Our country’s future is in danger if we continue to deny how history impacts our lives today. We suffer the consequences of our ancestors’ sins. It is up to us, today, to make amends for those transgressions and make needed changes -- right past wrongs and make sure we do not repeat them. It begins with acknowledging our wrongdoings.
America has been a racist nation from its inception. How can anyone be proud of the white man’s treatment of Indians and black people over the course of the past 400 or more years? Many people considered Indians and blacks less than human, inferior to the white man. We took the Indians land from them by force and deceit and enslaved black people.
Our educational system does our young people and our country a great disservice by not writing and publishing history textbooks that teach the total truth about our nation’s flawed past and how the consequences of some of those flaws impact us today. Cause-and-effect relationships are a vital part of studying and understanding history. Each succeeding generation reaps what previous generations sowed, whether good or evil.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was a great prophet who loved America and all its people so much he willingly sacrificed his life by eloquently pointing out our country’s failure to live up to her professed ideals of “freedom and justice for all.” How can we be a better people, a better nation, if, as a country refuse to acknowledge our past faults/failures? By doing so, we can learn from our mistakes and begin to strive to become the “beloved community” God wills us to be.
We must not underestimate the importance of learning from our history. H.G. Wells once said sadly, “The most important thing we learn from history is that we don’t learn from history.” We have nothing to fear from knowing the truth -- the good as well as the bad -- about our past. It can only free us to make a better, brighter future for us and our descendents.
-- Paul Lam Whiteley Sr.
We are appalled by the introduction of Georgia House Bill 160, which is being “sold” to legislators as a “recreational pursuit” and would make it legal to trap raccoons in north Georgia. Lifting the ban on leg hold traps, which are illegal in more than 80 countries around the world, will undoubtedly lead to the maiming and killing of unintended wildlife as well as domestic dogs and cats.
Traps cannot discriminate between rabid and healthy animals, nor can they select the species they ensnare. They are legalized land mines. The Georgia House has already passed this measure, and the legislation has been referred to the Senate for action. Join us in telling the Georgia Senate we oppose this measure. And if it should land on the governor’s desk, let’s be united in our message: No, Deal.
-- James Holland
Citizens Against Animal Cruelty